Lord, teach us to pray.

October 6, 1999

Jonah 4, 1-11 + Luke 11, 1-4

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Is Jonah mad or what? How dare those Assyrians repent of their sins! Well, if that's the way they are going to be, he's just going to deprive them of his company, go out into the desert and be a hermit in the hot sun. God asks Jonah -- "Have you reason to be angry?"

And so it came to pass that one night, a leafy plant grew up and he was glad for the shade, but the next morning, a worm came along and munched on the plant, causing it to wither. That day was a scorcher, and Jonah was thinking, "First the whale, then the heat, what's next, let me die now Lord." God then gives Jonah a lecture, ending with this admonition: "And should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left, not to mention the many cattle?"

It's hard to understand how God's mercy and grace cover those who are oppressors and persecutors, but it's true. God wants to draw them to conversion, to deliver them from the hand of their own oppression. The sad truth is that those who would be oppressors begin first with oppressing themselves, and they themselves are changed as they extend their oppression onto others.

In today's gospel, the disciples say to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." What an answer is given.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

There is much to be in despair about in this world, which is why this prayer is so important and profound. May it be for all of us catechesis and evangelism.

Thoughts on orthopraxis: When we pray for those who persecute and oppress us, are we glad when they don't repent? Would we call down brimstone and fire upon them? What does the relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor look like when the oppression is taken out of the equation?

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